The North American Mangiarotti Society

The Modern School of the  Italian Sword

Continuing Education

Each month we provide a continuing education topic for self-study by our members.  These topics are chosen from Mangiarotti's La Vera Scherma, and start with a detailed look at the discussion questions at the back of each section.  Traditionally questions like these have been used as the basis for discussion as part of the examination for the various ranks of professional fencing coaches, and they are a common feature of manuals on the Italian school of fencing.

With each month's continuing education topic, we will have a short review quiz.  Use the answer sheet in the column to the right hand side of the page to report your answers.  Completion of these review quizzes will count toward the 4 hours of approved continuing education required of instructors at Society accredited centers of instruction.


QUESTION: What is the difference between a counterdisengage and a deceive?

ANSWER: ​The counterdisengage eludes an engagement and a circular parry starting from a position;  the deceive circumvents the same actions as opposed to an invitation.  The first requires a circle and a half, the second one.

​The counterdisengage and the deceive both use circular actions to avoid the opponent's attempt to take the blade with the parry.  But to understand the difference we have to look beyond the standard examination questions and answers section for the foil on page 288 in La Vera Scherma​.

On page 248 we find discussions of both the counterdisengage (controcavazione) and the deceive (circolata):


A composed and indirect action that brings the blade from the original line to the opposite line by eluding the engagement and the opponent's circular parry (it is a circular motion in penetration).  Geometrically: a circle and a half.


A composed and direct action that takes the blade to the original line after the opponent has defended with a circular parry. It eludes successively a lateral parry and a circular parry.   Geometrically: a circle.

So, the counterdisengage is executed in response to an (1) opponent’s engagement, which (2) it avoids by a disengage, and (3) the following circular parry by which the opponent hopes to return the fencer’s blade to the original line, (4) which it avoids by a complete circle.  The fencer’s attack ends up in the lateral line opposite to the original engagement.  Thus if the initial engagement was in 6th, the attack will land in 4th.

In contrast, the deceive is executed in response to (1) an opponent’s invitation and (2) attempt to execute a lateral parry (3) by a disengage into the line of the invitation, which (4) in response to the opponent’s attempted circular parry (5) continues in a complete circle.  The fencer’s attack ends in the lateral line in which it started (the line opened by the invitation.  Remember that an invitation is numbered not by the line it opens, but by the line into which the blade moves.  Thus, if the opponent invites in 6th, the line is opening further in 4th, and the deceive lands in 4th.

However, the major tactical difference in these two actions is not the mechanics of the action, but into what line and when they are executed.  The counterdisenagge ends in the opposite lateral line; the deceive ends in the original line.  Note that Mangiarotti is using direct and indirect differently from common usage in the United States – direct refers to landing in the original line, indirect to a different line.  The counterdisengage responds to action starting from a position; the deceive is in reaction to an invitation. 

These definitions differ from common usage in the United States today.  Maitre Robert Handelman’s glossary in Fencing Foil (2014) provides a good example.  Handleman defines a counterdisengage as “a simple indirect attack executed as a circular progressive thrust to deceive an opponent’s circular search for the blade or change of engagement …” (page 441).  Mangiarotti’s counetrdisengage is closer to the modern definition of a double with two distinct actions of a disengage and counterdisengage.  Further, Handelman defines the deceive as “any action that deliberately avoids the opponent’s offensive or defensive attempt to contact one’s blade …” (page 442).  Mangiarotti’s definition is more narrowly drawn.


1.  QUESTION:  The counterdisengage is a ________________ attack:

  • a. simple indirect
  • b. composed direct
  • c. composed indirect

2.  QUESTION:  The deceive ends in which line?

  • ​a.  the original line in which it started
  • b.  the line laterally opposite to the one in which it started
  • ​c.  the line vertically opposite to the one in which it started

​3.  QUESTION:  Which of the actions discussed in this lesson is executed on an invitation?

  • a.  the circular parry
  • b.  the counterdisengage
  • ​c.  the deceive

MAY 2017 - Intentions

QUESTION:  When do you hit with the first intention?


ANSWER:  When it prevents the initiative passing to the opponent.


QUESTION:  And with the second intention?


ANSWER:  When you intentionally provoke the opponent’s initiative to neutralize it, leading to your thrust.


QUESTION:  And with the third intention?


ANSWER:  When you intentionally evade the second intention of the opponent concluding the action to your advantage.


This month we will examine three questions on intention from the questions section of La Vera Scherma.  Fencers in the United States encounter the referee's interpretation of intention, as he awards a counterattack priority over a properly executed and first initiated simple attack, explaining "you did not demonstrate intent."  We are not talking about something that only exists if the referee somehow divines that the attacker met, or failed to meet, some referee-created standard of evaluation of the attacker's mental state.


​A little bit better is the understanding many fencers have that there is such a thing as second intention.  This is typically taught as: attack with a false attack deliberately short to draw the opponent's parry and riposte so that you can counterriposte to hit.  This is better than the referee's understanding, but only a little bit.


​Intention is a tactical concept that answers two questions:  (1) do I execute this particular part of the fencing phrase with the objective of hitting the opponent, or is it executed to create the conditions under which I can hit in a subsequent part of the phrase, and (2) if I believe that the opponent is preparing an action with multiple intentions, do I act to defeat it at the start or at the end?  In each case this is a planned action, not simply a reaction in the moment to what the opponent does.  Each action on your part contributes an intention to the phrase.


But if we have second intention is there anything more?  Second intention suggests that there might at least be a first intention, and perhaps a third intention.  And there are ... classical texts mention up to fourth intention, but dismiss them as impossible to do.


In La Vera Scherma, Mangiarotti and Cerchiari define the intentions as follows on page 280:


"The FIRST INTENTION is the one that scores the hit, preventing the initiative from passing to the opponent, that is when the opponent cannot find the blade, parry, escape, or counterattack in time."


"The SECOND INTENTION is the one that provokes the intended initiative of the opponent in order to neutralize it in a timely manner."

"The THIRD INTENTION is the one that escapes the opponent's second intention."

​The understanding comes in the details.  First intention is the attack with the intent to score on the first action in the fencing phrase, the simple attack, compound attack, and the preparations of attack on the blade and taking of the blade.  La Vera Scherma provides examples of second and third intention.

For second intention:

... the attack in countertime, drawing the opponent's stop with an initial action that has no intent ot land followed by a parry and riposte or stop hit against the opponent's stop hit (acts on the final part of the opponent's action).

... an attack on invitation in third (acts on the first part of an opponent's planned second intention by not allowing the planned parry and riposte);

... counterattack by direct thrust to the high inside line of the opponent (a stop hit to prevent the traditional second intention attack-parry riposte-parry counterriposte).

... a lateral parry of fourth and riposte against the countertime of the attacker (acts on the final part of the opponent's action).

​This selection points out that second intention is a much wider field of operations than is normally taught.  Something as simple as an invitation (your first blade action) followed by a parry and riposte (your second blade action on the response to the invitation) is second intention.  We also see second intention as defeating either the first action or the final action.  To do so, you have to understand the opponent and what he or she is going to do.

For third intention, the authors helpfully describe where the intention action occurs.

​... direct attack in the line of the invitation of third (a first intention response that shuts the door on the second or third intention). 

...  a counterattack of the opponent by direct attack;

... a parry of fourth of the attacker in the false attack (both of these prevent the opponent's second intention action).

... a counterparry (a second parry) of fourth and riposte on the opponent’s recovery;

... a counterparry and direct riposte at the attacker at the conclusion of the attack (these act as the third intention).

And now we have third intention being applied at any point in the opponent's expected action.  This means that a counterattack on the first blade action of an opponent's intended second intention is your third intention, or at the other end of the spectrum your feint in tempo is third intention as it avoids the opponent's planned defensive countertime second intention.

First and second intention actions can be made at any distance.  Third intention actions are for advance lunge and longer distances.  The fleche is included in this, although the fleche in this case is in the context of the old running fleche, not the more modern fleche executed to cover a shorter distance.

Second and third intention are complex and difficult actions.  La Vera Scherma closes the discussion of intention with the admonition that "it is clear that the second intention, and especially the third, requires a particular study and training."

May 2017 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION:  Intention refers to:

  • a. how serious you are about carrying through an attack you have started to a successful hit.
  • b. the evaluation of a referee as to whether you have demonstrated sufficient intent to be awarded right of way.
  • c. whether your objective is to hit on your first or a subsequent action in a phrase.

2.  QUESTION:  Which of the following is an example of a first intention attack?

  • a. a vertical disengage attack executed with a lunge with the objective of hitting an exposed low line target
  • b. an opportunistic remise as a counter attack against the opponent's riposte 
  • c. a first counterriposte following a false attack to draw the opponent's parry and riposte

3.  QUESTION:  A third intention action can be executed:

  • a. on the first action or second action of an opponent's planned second intention attack. 
  • b. any time your first intention action fails and a more than one parry-riposte/counterriposte sequence is initiated by either fencer. 
  • c. only if you are fencing opportunistically with eyes open with the intent to capitalize on small errors by the opponent.

April 2017 - Attitudes of the Blade

QUESTION:  What are the positions that one fencer may take on guard?


ANSWER:  There are three: weapon in line, invitation, engagement.


The fundamental position that a fencer takes are defined by Mangiarotti as falling into one of three categories.  The position is either:


(1)  one of the weapon in a line, in other words in a line of offense or defense position position with the blade capable of either defense or offense, or


(2)  an invitation exposing target area to draw an attack that can then be defeated by parry and riposte in second intention, ​or


(3) an engagement of the opponent's blade.


As La Vera Scherma makes clear on page 241, there is a direct correlation between the quadrants of the target and the guard positions of the blade.


Lines and targets


The lines of offense are in close connection with the target you want to hit. In the foil, the valid target is divided into four quadrants in relation to the trunk of the fencer in a guard position. These areas are: inside chest high, which corresponds to the fourth line; upper chest (and back), which corresponds to the third line; low inside (or abdomen) corresponding to the first or half circle line; low outside which corresponds to the line of second (or octave).

The Positions of the Weapon Arm

When the arm moves from the normal position or guard to perform offensive or defensive action it take four fundamental positions: of fourth relative to the line and the high inside target; of third relative to the line and the high outside target; of first (or half-circle) relative to the line and inside low target (or abdomen); of second (or eighth) relative to the line and the low outside target (or flank)."

This is a clear statement that quadrant of the trunk, the target, and blade position are interrelated.  An examination of the diagram on page 239 shows Mangiarotti's concept of the quadrants and lines.  This is a different quadrant system from the old, and generally discredited, traditional model of dividing the torso by a vertical line from the crotch through the navel to the neck, and it is not the model of centering the lines on the current position of the bell of the fencer's weapon.  Instead the vertical division appears to be based on the center line of the fencer's lower leg extended up to the mask, with a horizontal line that is approximately at the level of the bell in a normal guard position.  .   


​Invitations are described in La Vera Scherma on page 242 as:


"An attitude of second intention that serves to reveal a target, so that the opponent is induced to come to hit it. Four invitations correspond to as many targets:


1 INVITATION OF FOURTH which exposes the outside (high and low) and low inside quadrants.


2 INVITATION OF THIRD which exposes the inside (high and low) and outside low quadrants.

3 INVITATION OF SECOND or OF EIGHTH which exposes the higher and the inside low quadrants.

4 INVITATION OF FIRST or OF HALF CIRCLE which exposes the higher and the outside low quadrants."

​It is important to note that invitations are described in the context of the line in which they move - thus an invitation of fourth moves toward the inside high line (4th), opening 6th, 2nd, and Half Circle (French 7th).  Transitions, invitations, parries, and guards all are performed in essentially the same way in the same space.


​Mangiarotti says in La Vera Scherma on page 242 that the engagement is the act of moving your blade to bring it into contact with the opponent's blade that is located in a specific position or line.  This is a definition similar to the understanding of engagement in American fencing based on blade contact.  It differs from the interpretation of engagement found in some European texts that calls for the engaging blade to dominate the opponent's blade. 

April 2017 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION:  The fencer can position his blade in ____ primary invitations?

  • a. 3
  • b. 4
  • c. 8

2.  QUESTION:  What is the key feature of an engagement?

  • a.  engagements can only be taken in the two high lines
  • b.  in an engagement the fencer must completely dominate the opponent's blade
  • c.  the blades in contact in a guard position constitute an engagement

3.  QUESTION:  a blade position of First or Half-Circle covers which line or lines?

  • a.  high inside line
  • b.  low inside line
  • c.  both high inside and high outside lines

March 2017 - Parate Composte (Composed Parries)

QUESTION:  What are the composed parries?


ANSWER:  All those that are performed by alternating lateral parries, semi-circular parries, counter parries, and vice versa.


Multiple parries have long been used to defeat compound attacks on a one to one ratio of tempos.  In other words, a disengage is opposed with a single parry, a one-two by two parries, a one-two-three by three parries.  These combinations of parries to meet a compound attack have been termed composed parries, compound parries, or successive parries.  Note that Mangiarotti used the term "composed" with offensive actions.

We should note that, if you have been raised on the short or long tactical wheels, you know that a compound attack is defeated by a stop hit.  It is important to understand that this doctrine is not universally true.  First, a stop hit in foil depends on either its shock value to stop the attack, the opponent missing because of poor point control, or a technical fault by the opponent.  Absent these factors it is very difficult to land before the start of the second tempo of a fast attack, and for the referee to recognize that you have done so.  An experienced opponent may simply finish the first tempo as a simple attack.  Sabre has more room for the stop action because of the advanced target and the accompanying better chance of a post hit lockout.  Of course, in epee the stop hit works on simple as well as composed attacks.   All this means that multiple parries are a viable tactical option.

In La Vera Scherma (page 259-261) Mangiarotti classifies parries as follows: lateral, half counter (which may be either the vertical semi-circular or a diagonal), counter (circular), and double counter.  His discussion of composed parries is found on page 255:

"Composed parries are formed by alternating lateral parries, half counter and counter; lateral and counter; counter and lateral; double counter; double counter and lateral; lateral and double counter; lateral and half counter; half counter and lateral; half counter and counter; counter and half counter.  Composed parries constitute the contrary in defense to all the composed actions of offense. For every action of offense there corresponds a related defensive action that can be developed on the same line of attack or by carrying the opponent’s blade on another line."

This results in 10 combinations of parries (half counter and counter appears twice in the list) that theoretically could be used to meet an attack that starts in any of the four lines:  terza, quarta, octavo (or seconda), and mezzocerchio (or prima).  These can be sorted by the first parry executed in the composed set as follows:

Lateral Parry:

  • lateral parry, lateral parry
  • ​lateral parry, half-counterparry
  • ​lateral parry, counterparry
  • ​lateral parry, double counterparry


  • ​half-counterparry, lateral parry
  • half-counterparry, counterparry


  • counterparry, lateral parry
  • counterparry, half-counterparry
  • double counterparry
  • double counterparry, lateral parry

The obviously missing parry is the half-counterparry, half-counterparry combination to deal with the compound high to low, low to high one-two.

March 2017 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION: Composed parries are composed of:

  • a. parries of one action that take the opponent's blade and use a presa di ferro to form the riposte.
  • b. a combination of two or more types of blade actions, for example, a beat and a bind to control the opponent's blade.
  • c. two or more combinations of lateral, semi-circular, and/or counterparries. 

2.  QUESTION: The objective of the composed parry is to:

  • a. clear the line to allow a direct riposte.
  • ​b. defeat composed offensive actions.
  • c. ensure that the defender is able to parry simple attacks.

​3.  QUESTION: In a composed parry the ratio of parrying movements to attacking movements is:

  • a. 1 to 1
  • b. 2 to 1
  • ​c. 1 to 3

February 2017 - Presa di Ferro

QUESTION:  What is a Presa di Ferro (taking of the blade)?


ANSWER:  An offensive action that moves the forte of your blade to seize the opponent’s blade in a certain line (for example: taking the blade in third, taking the blade in fourth).


​It is tempting to translate "presa di ferro" as the French term "prise de fer" or the English equivalent "taking of the blade."  In common American use of taking of the blade, there are four or five blade actions that rely on leverage for their execution: the glide, bind, croise, envelopment, and double envelopment.  Only one of these, the glide, is lateral.  The bind is diagonal, croise vertical, and the envelopments circular.


But let's look at ​La Vera Scherma and see if this is a correct interpretation.  Three sections of text help us understand the presa di ferro (and to avoid confusion it is worth using the Italian term).  First, on page 252 it is described as:


​"An action of the fencer aimed at seizing the blade of the opponent and executing in the four lines, both starting with the blade off the line of the guard or any position.  It is made from the starting position by performing passage by feel, half against or against up to contact and domination of the opponent’s blade."


​That is not necessarily the clearest description of technique, but page 315 adds to our understanding.


"It is executed with accentuated intrusion of the blade towards the opponent, preferably with a step forward, and this to ensure the domination of the opponent’s blade to prevent a direct stop hit or release. The fencer takes the blade with the forte and taking advantage of the guard-blade corner.  It accentuates the effectiveness of the fist position and then covers in the attack."


​And on page 118:


​"The presa di ferro is a movement that brings your blade to seize and dominate with strength the opponent's blade diverting it from the offensive line. It constitutes one of the safest tactical actions of sword fighting.  You can in fact perform first or second intention, in time and in countertime, attack and counterattack, and measures of stationary, stretching, walking, as long measure in fleche and counterattack. The movement of the taking of the blade may be simple or compound, direct or indirect.  The smooth and efficient execution of a taking of the blade is based on the following principles: to advance with rapid progression of the armed fist until complete stretching of the arm; enter the opponent's guard holding the measure; keep the taking of the opponent’s blade with the right opposition and taking advantage of the sharp blade-guard angle until reaching the target so as to prevent the opposing fencer any chance of escaping defensively or stop hitting."


Photographs on page 118 and 119 show the presa di ferro being executed in:

  • ​Low inside - Presa di Prima
  • ​Low outside - Presa di Seconda
  • High outside - Presa di Terza
  • ​High inside - Presa di Quarta

​So we can describe the presa di ferro as:

  • an offensive action by a lateral taking of the opponent's blade,
  • ​simple or compound, direct or indirect,
  • ​in first or second intention,
  • in all four lines,
  • ​based on a rapid, progressive full extension of the arm,
  • using strong opposition with the forte and the intersection of the blade and guard,
  • to prevent the opponent stop-hitting or escaping from the taking,
  • with the step forward, or in fact any forward footwork,
  • executed as an attack or counterattack.

​This is a single action, not a class  of actions, and is different enough from the typical descriptions of the common takings of the blade to merit inclusion as a separate category.

February 2017 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION: One of the key characteristics of the Presa di Ferro is:

  • a.  the fencer takes a parry, and once the opponent's blade is caught makes an extension.
  • b.  rapid opposition is delivered in the line by continuous extension to full arm's length. 
  • c.  blade contact is followed by a detachment from the blade in the same line.

​2.  QUESTION: In which lines can the Presa di Ferro be executed?

  • a.  first (prima), second (seconda), third (terza), and fourth (quarta)
  • b.  only in the high lines, high inside and high outside
  • ​c.  only on the inside lines, fourth (quarta) and first (prima)

3.  QUESTION: What footwork is used to deliver the Presa di Ferro?

  • a.  the fencer remains static to avoid closing the distance prematurely and causing the point to miss
  • b.  a quick retreat to give time to contact and dominate the blade.
  • ​c.  a quick advance

January 2017 - Measure

QUESTION:  What is the measure?

ANSWER:  The space between the valid targets of the two fencers.

QUESTION: What measures are considered didactically?

ANSWER:  Five: tight; stationary; extension; walking; long measure.

Two questions in the fundamentals section of review questions from La Vera Scherma deal with measure.  Measure, or distance, is an important concept in all schools of fencing.  Controlling the measure gives the fencer the ability to close to attack or open to defend, and measure is critical to the selection of footwork and the timing of blade actions.

Mangiarotti states in La Vera Scherma (p. 238) that:

"The measure is the space between the valid target of the two fencers at a given time of the fight.

For the purpose of implementation, teaching will consider five measures on which the fencer will have to repeatedly practice the execution of the appropriate actions:

1   CLOSE MEASURE when the fencers at near distance are not still corps a corps.

2   STATIONARY when two fencers touch by extending the arm without lunging.

3   STRETCHING when you will touch the opponent by doing a lunge.

4   WALKING when to touch the opponent, the fencer must first advance one step then lunge, or execute a fleche.

5   LONG MEASURE particularly in the sword and saber for action by reconnaissance; in all  three arms for the application of the second and third intention in fleche."

These five omit two additional measures that are included in his table of Measure for Teaching and of Combat (p. 237).  If we number the other two measures as 0 and 6 to keep the relationship straight:

0  CORPS-A-CORPS means that the fencer must stop or step or jump back.

OUTSIDE MEASURE is beyond the distance at which on guard is necessary.

All seven distances comprise the limit or range of Measures.  Mangiarotti puts specific distance measurements and suggests specific actions in this table as follows:

0  CORPS-A-CORPS - the fencers are in contact.

1   CLOSE MEASURE - from 0.5 to 1 meter - hits are by angulation.

2   STATIONARY - 1.5 to 2 meters - extension of the arm.

3   STRETCHING - 2 to 2.8 meters - the lunge.

​4  WALKING - 2.8 to 3.5 meters - the forward step, the lunge, and the fleche.

​5  LONG MEASURE - 2.8 to 4 meters - the fleche.

​6  OUTSIDE MEASURE - more than 4 meters - the fencer does not have to maiantain a guard position.

The omission of Corps-a-Corps and Outside Measure from the set of measures to be taught makes sense when you consider that corps-a-corps is supposed to halt the action.  Of course, the exception to this is that some referees will allow a substantial amount of body contact in foil and epee on the theory that the fencers should solve the problem.   And one could argue that outside measure can be excluded because it does not generate a fencing phrase.

Mangiarotti's description of measure is much more complex than the typical three distances approach that is often taught.  He establishes measurable ranges for the measures and links each measure to a broader range of specific types of footwork than is typical.

January 2017 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION: Measure can be defined as:

  • a.  the distance between the point of the weapon and the opponent's target
  • b.  the distance between the two fencers
  • c.  the distance within which the fencer must be to make a successful attack

​2.  QUESTION:  Mangiarotti describes a number of measures.  How many of these are measures that should be specifically addressed in teach and training fencers?

  • a.  3
  • b.  5
  • ​c.  7

​3.  QUESTION:  The measure at which you can hit the opponent by a simple extension of the arm is:

  • a.  Close Measure.
  • b.  Short Measure.
  • ​c.  Stationary Measure.

December 2016 - CEDING

QUESTION: What is ceding?

ANSWER:  The counterattack performed in tempo with its blade parried by that of the opponent.

There are two forms of ceding, ceding as an attacking action and parries by ceding.  This month's topic deals with ceding as an attacking action.  Although Mangiarotti answers his question by terming ceding as a counterattack in tempo, the full descriptions from La Vera Scerma and La Spada ​provide a more complete picture of the action:

From LA VERA SCHERMA​: Action applied in tempo and second intention, executed when your blade is submissive to that of the opponent by engagement, expulsion, or prise de fer.  It is to escape the domination by the opponent’s blade, taking the offensive initiative, and reaching the target with appropriate angle. And on the opponent’s initiative, ceding can be applied simultaneously with the opponent's high line parrying movement, anticipating the riposte to which the opponent would otherwise be entitled.

And also: The ceding is a variety of actions of attack and defense consisting of the escape in tempo from the domination of the opponent’s blade and instead oppose blade to blade on the horizontal plane of a certain line by angulating diagonally. You can perform the final attack passing under the opponent’s parry or in defense, especially inside distance. in the four possible lines, yielding the blade diagonally

From LA SPADA:  The Fleche with Ceding:  On the adversary who defended with the blade and measure, without riposting, at the end of the fleche the continuation cede under the blade continues to touch with a clear precedence over a subsequent riposte.

And also:  An offensive and defensive action, applied in time, performed when the fencer’s blade is subjected to an engagement, expulsion, glide, prise de fer, change beat. Consisting in the evasion of the opponent’s blade displacement and reaching the target with appropriate blade angulation against the opponent’s blade.  As well as on the initiative of the opponent, the cede can be applied simultaneously on the attacker’s parry moving in the high lines, anticipating even the immediate riposte.

So, what does this all mean?  If we are considering the offensive or counteroffensive action:

1.  Ceding happens when there is blade contact by the opponent intended to dominate your blade: engagement, a parry, glide, taking of the blade in an opposition prise de fer, change beat, etc.

2.  Ceding can be considered either an attack, a renewal of the attack, or a counterattack against the opponent's attack or riposte.

3.  It is executed in tempo, that is to say while the opponent's action is on-going in the same tempo.  It is an absolutely immediate action intended to land far enough ahead of the opponent's action that provoked it to be given precedence.  This means that there is no hesitation. 

4.  The fencer ceding hits by executing an angulation in any of the four standard displacements (left, right, high, and low) to deny the domination of the blade by getting the point around, over, or under and inside the opponent's blade.  This demands a strong displacement of the arm and weapon hand in the original line, simultaneously angling the forward part of the blade around that of the opponent.  You essentially use the opponent's blade as a fulcrum to pivot around. 

5.  It is second intention in the sense that it is based on the immediate reaction to the opponent's predictable first intention. 


1.  QUESTION: Ceding as an offensive action is conducted in which tempo?

  • a.  the tempo before the opponent's domination of your blade
  • b.  in one tempo - the same tempo as the opponent's action
  • c.  the tempo after the opponent has released your blade

2.  QUESTION: Ceding is executed by:

  • a.  disengaging away from the opponent's pressure.
  • b.  leverage forcing the opponent's blade clear of the line of your original attack.
  • c.  angulation in the four lines (above, below, left, right).

3.  QUESTION:  What is the relationship of the ceding to the immediate riposte?

  • a.  the intent is to arrive before the riposte
  • b.  ceding should arrive immediately following the riposte if the riposte is delayed
  • c.  the ceding prevents a riposte by closing the line


QUESTION:  What is meant by the defensive-offensive system?


ANSWER:  A deliberate tactic to be able to move from a state of defense to an immediate offensive action and vice versa countering the opponent’s rhythm in both retreating and advancing.


​Mangiarotti's answer highlights four key concepts about the interplay of defense and offense:


​First - the flow of defense to offense is a deliberate tactical (that is to say involving technique, timing, distance, movement, speed, and initiative) choice, not an accident of combat.


​Second - the flow of defense to offense and offense to defense are technically and tactically similar, and the same principles apply to both.


​Third - a key objective is to counter the rhythm of the opponent's actions. 


​Fourth - actions in the system may be done both retreating and advancing.


​Further discussion in the chapter on principal actions of offense and defense in foil is centered on the concept of dealing with the opponent's attack and immediately regaining the initiative.  Mangiarotti says (La Vera Scherma page 258):


"The Defensive-Offensive System


​The most effective defensive actions are those composed of parries with the blade and with measure, intentionally applied as second intention.  They are tactically the most rational dynamic expression, and allow the possibility of controlling the rhythm of combat to the fencer's advantage, both increasing and decreasing as opposed to the opponent's rhythm. 


​Another defensive-offensive system is to anticipate the end of the opponent's attack by removing the target from the opponent's offense going forward, and stepping into close measure."


In both the parry by the blade and parry by control of the measure, or distance, the fencer is acting deliberately in second intention.  Note that ​Second Intention as used here is the intentional provocation of an attack to neutralize it and hit with a reply, a distinctly different definition than the normal scenario commonly taught of a deliberately short attack, followed by a counterriposte against the opponent's parry-riposte.  This defensive type of second intention allows for section of actions in a different rhythm than the attacker's.


The removal of the target option in the second paragraph is a distance pull to make the attack fall short followed by a fast and immediate step in to close hitting distance with an angulated thrust before the opponent can fully recover. 

November 2016 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION: The Defensive-Offensive System is intentionally applied as:

  • a.  First Intention.
  • b.  Second Intention.
  • c.  Third Intention.

2.  QUESTION:  Which two applications offer the most dynamic approach to controlling the rhythm of combat in the defensive-offensive system?

  • a.  parries with measure and counteroffensive actions
  • b.  counteroffensive actions of feint in tempo and counterattack in tempo
  • c.  parries with the blade and parries with measure

3.  QUESTION: The concepts of the defensive-offensive system can be applied to:

  • a.  only defensive actions.
  • b.  defensive-offensive actions and to third intention offensive actions.
  • c.  both defensive-offensive and offensive-defensive actions.

October 2016 - The Parry with Distance

QUESTION:  What are the actions of defense?


ANSWER:  The parry with the blade and the parry with distance.


​When we consider the taxonomy of fencing actions, there is general commonality over the past 100 years that defense is a major division of the categories of blade actions.  For example, Laszlo Szabo (Fencing and the Master 1977) categorizes actions in a tactical sequence as a first stage of simple attacks, followed by a second stage of defensive counter-actions against the simple attacks, etc.  The second stage defense includes (1) the parry-riposte, (2) the counterattack, and (3) the use of distance.  Distance as a defense may be passive, taken without a reaction to the opponent's action in order to assess his or her capabilities and intent, or active in combination with a parry and riposte or counterattack.


Zbigniew Czajkowski (​Understanding Fencing: The Unity of Theory and Practice​ 2005) identifies two major categories of fencing actions, preparatory and real, or ultimate, actions.  Among the real actions are offensive, offensive-defensive, and defensive actions.  The defensive actions include parries, evasions, and retreats.


Based on this we know that defense includes distance, but is a parry with distance really a parry?  There is a school of thought, with ardent advocates, that a parry with distance is not a parry because the defense is not executed with the blade.  And because there is no blade action, there cannot be a riposte.  There is ample support for the defeinition of a parry as being a blade action.  For example:

  • Roger Crosnier (Fencing with the Foil​ 1951): Parry. Defensive action of the sword of deflecting an attack.
  • Maxwell Garret, Emmanuil Kaidanov, and Gil Pezza (Foil, Sabre, and Epee Fencing ​1994): Parry. A defensive action made with the weapon to deflect the attacker's blade.
  • Rob Handelman and Connie Louie (​Fencing Foil ​2014): Parry.  A defensive action using the blade to stop the opponent's blade.

But there is a glimmer of disagreement with the parry as blade on blade.  Johan Harmenberg (Epee 2.5​ 2015) specifically introduces two parries that do not depend on blade contact.  The destructive parry intends to prevent an attack in a line by blade movement, and the confusing parry is a parry deliberately made without blade contact in a line other than the one attacked.


So what does Edoardo Mangiarotti say in ​La Vera Scherma​?  The most general definition is: "the defensive action made with the blade or with breaking the measure that prevents the attack from touching" (page 265). 


When we translate his paragraph on the parry with distance a fuller picture emerges:


"Defensive action evading the opponent's attack simply by breaking the measure, ie by subtracting the target of the opponent's offense with appropriate backward or forward movement of the limbs or body.  To be effective the parry by distance must be executed in relation to the starting distance and the speed of execution of the opponent’s attack, so that I mean to pass from a condition of defense to that of a possibility of instant offense.  From the point of view of competitive logic, in fact, any blade parry must be followed by an immediate riposte, and similarly the parry by distance must be immediately followed by an offensive action, thus removing the opponent’s initiative." (pages 256-257)


What is clear is that Mangiarotti is using "parata" in a wider sense of a defensive action that causes the opponent's blade attack to fail, not in the more limited sense of blade on blade defensive contact.  He draws a clear parallel between the blade parry with its immediate riposte and the distance parry with its immediate offensive action, both defense followed by offense.  And if you are talking about or teaching Mangiarotti's technique, it is clearly correct to refer to a parry by distance. 


October 2016 Review Questions

1.  QUESTION: How many types of parries does Magiarotti describe in La Vera Scherma?

  • a.  one - he includes all defensive and counteroffensive actions as parries
  • b.  two - parries by blade actions and parries by distance
  • c.  three - parries by blade actions, parries by distance, or destructive parries

2.  QUESTION: Is the parry with distance a parry in the sense of how the term is used by many modern texts?

  • a.  no - most modern texts refer to a parry as blade on blade contact
  • b.  yes - in today's terminology a wide range of actions are called parries by most authors
  • c.  sometimes - if the author considers all types of defense, including counterattacks as parries

3.  QUESTION: How are the parry by distance and the parry by blade action similar?

  • a.  both actions involve contact of the defender's blade with the attackers - the parry with distance requires that the blade contact be made after a step back
  • b.  both actions are based on evading the opponent's attack at the last possible moment
  • c.  in both cases an immediate offensive action follows the parry   

NAMS Continuing Education Answer Sheet

Month and Year of Topic
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3